How Skateboarding Became Popular

Skateboarding has been around for quite some time now but have you ever wondered how skateboarding became popular? Well, let’s try to answer that question. Skateboarding is more than just cruising around. Skateboarding is reaching heights never dreamed of and is finding its place among traditional sports like baseball and football. Skateboarding is a lifestyle.

Skateboarding is love.

Parents aren’t so resistant to the idea of their children preferring to skate versus trying out for shortstop on the HS Baseball team. It is fascinating that in such a short time Skateboarding has gained such ground. Over the past 60 years, skateboarding went through a kind of evolution.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the history that’s shaped skateboarding today.

The Beginning Of Skateboarding

By the early 1950s, surfing can be traced as the source of skateboarding. Surfers in California got the bright idea to surf concrete and invent skateboarding. The origin of the first skateboard has never been proven as it seems to have been the spontaneous invention of multiple people.

Wooden boards with roller skate wheels slapped on the bottom where the makings of the original boards these pioneers took to the streets. You can imagine the looks on the faces of people seeing this for the first time. As you might imagine, a lot of people got hurt in skateboarding’s early years.

During this time, skateboarding was seen as something to do for fun after surfing.

Some surfers had the idea to transfer the feeling of riding waves onto the streets to defy times of days with a gentle swell. Not without any reason, these dudes were called ‘asphalt surfers‘. At two spots in the world, a kind of skateboard was developed for the first time in the early 1950s: California and Hawaii.

They used shorter surfboards and wheels made out of metal without some bearings. In the late 1950s, skateboarding had the first peak. During the post-war period, the U.S. economy boomed and this also affected the toy industry. During that time, the toy industry became aware of the board with wheels.

In 1959, Roller Derby released the first official skateboard with some new technical developments. Thereby, the handling characteristics have been improved. For this reason, skateboarders were able to develop new tricks and manoeuvres.

 

Skateboarding Becomes More Popular

Between the years 1959 and 1965, skateboarding became more and more popular in the United States. Particularly affected were the states on the east and west coasts. Due to industrial development, the skateboard’s status changed from toy to sports equipment.

By 1963 skateboarding was all the rage. The popularity of the sport was at its peak. Companies such as Jack’s, Hobie, and Makaha started having real competitions consisting of Downhill Slalom and Freestyle where skaters like Torger Johnson, Woody Woodward, and Danny Berer paved the way for future skaters.

In 1962, the surf shop ‘Val-Surf‘ in Hollywood sold the first self-produced skateboards. These boards featured a typical surfboard shape and roller skate trucks and were sold as complete boards. In the same year, the company Patterson Forbes developed the first industrially produced complete boards with more developed trucks.

In 1963, the publisher of the ‘Surf Guide Magazine’ Larry Stevenson released the first advertisement for skateboards in his magazine. Also, the clothing industry specialized more and more on skateboarding. One of the most famous skateboarding shoe brand named Vans was established in 1966.

From this day on, Vans supported skateboarders from all over the world. Especially shoe companies like Vans, Etnies, Converse, and DC Shoes developed and manufactured skateboarding related footwear and streetwear.

Another landmark event in 1963 was the first skate contest in Hermosa Beach, California. Skateboarding was not just cruising anymore. Skateboarders showed their skills in different disciplines like slalom or freestyle and companies started to assemble a team to sponsor the riders.

As the popularity of skateboarding began to expand, the first skateboarding magazine ‘The Quarterly Skateboarder‘ was published in 1964.

Skateboarding – The First Crash

Then in 1965 for some reason, skateboarding seemed to simply die. Considered to be a fad that came and went, skateboarding seemed to fade overnight. Most people assumed that skateboarding was a fad that had died out, like the hula hoop. Skateboard companies folded, and some people who wanted to stay true to the sport had to make their own skateboards again from scratch.

They had created homemade boards and fine-tune their craft. One of the reasons suspected for skateboarding losing some of its ground was the fact that the sport was very dangerous. The clay wheels they used were everything but safe and lead to many injuries.

Skateboarders who continued the sport were using clay wheels for their boards, which was extremely dangerous and hard to control.

But then in 1972, Frank Nasworthy invented urethane skateboard wheels, which are similar to what most skateboarders use today. His company was called Cadillac Wheels, and the invention sparked a new interest in skateboarding among surfers and other young people.

Skateboarding – 70s Evolution

In the spring of 1975, skateboarding took an evolutionary boost toward the sport that we see today. In Del Mar, California, a slalom and freestyle contest was held at the Ocean Festival. That day, the Zephyr team showed the world what skateboarding could be.

They rode their boards like no one had in the public eye, low and smooth, and skateboarding was taken from being a hobby to something serious and exciting The Zephyr team had many members, but the most famous are Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta.

Then in 1978, Alan Gelfand (nicknamed “Ollie”) invented a manoeuvre that gave skateboarding another revolutionary jump.

He would slam his back foot down on the tail of his board and jump, thereby popping himself and the board into the air. Rodney Mullen was one of the first riders who transferred the Ollie for different manoeuvres onto the streets and spread a new style of skateboarding.

Next to other fun sports activities like BMX or inline skating, street skateboarding developed more and more and became very popular.

 

Skateboarding – The Second Crash

At the end of the 1970s skateboarding took another hit. It faced its second crash in popularity. Public skate parks had been built, but with skateboarding being such a dangerous activity, insurance rates got out of control. This, combined with fewer people coming to skate parks, forced many to close.

But skateboarders kept at it. Through the ’80s skateboarders started to built their own ramps at home and to skate whatever else they could find. Skateboarding began to be more of an underground movement, with skaters continuing to ride, but they made the whole world into their skate park.

During the ’80s, smaller skateboard companies owned by skateboarders started cropping up. This enabled each company to be creative and do whatever it wanted, and new styles and shapes of boards were tried.

Skateboarding Evolution Till Date

Skateboarding continues to grow as the anti-establishment subculture that we all know it as. Skateboarders had become hell-bent on progressing their passion for the sport so they started building their own ramps in their backyards. It’s no secret that this became a problem for local construction companies when they started to notice their lumber was disappearing.

During this time many new board shapes took form allowing for skaters to overcome obstacles otherwise impossible. Another invention in the 1980s played a major roll in skateboarding history. The intention of VHS. Stacey Peralta and George Powell’s Bones Brigade team starts recording skateboarding videos that will reach kids all over the world.

The team included Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen, Stacy Peralta, and Kevin Staab. This is the team responsible for The Bones Brigade Video Show.

At the end of the 1980s skateboarding took yet another dive in popularity when vert skateboarding became far less popular than street skateboarding. In the early 90s skateboarding starts to rise again as it found some common ground and harmony with the emerging punk music.

Then in 1995 ESPN holds the first-ever X-Games. The event was a huge success and brought skateboarding into the mainstream light sparking interest in many more young kids. Because of brands like Chocolate, Girl Skateboards or Flip Skateboards, the skateboarding hardware was developed more and more and skateboarders could buy high-quality skateboards in every bigger city.

More indicators are the big and worldwide known events of ‘Street League‘. ‘Street League Skateboarding’ is a contest series for international pro skaters. Here, you only see the best street skateboarder you can think of like Nyjah Huston, Eric Koston, Paul Rodriguez, Andrew Reynolds, Ryan Sheckler or Torey Pudwill. Due to the cash prizes of 200,000 US Dollars or more for the winner and 10.000 visitors at the “Street League” stops, skateboarding became more of a professional sport.

Skateboarding – The 2000s

Since 2000, attention in the media and products like skateboarding video games, children’s skateboards and commercialization have all pulled skateboarding more and more into the mainstream. With more money being put into skateboarding, there are more skate parks, better skateboards, and more skateboarding companies to keep innovating and inventing new things.

Tons of companies emerge to sponsor different events and skateboarding has become more and more acceptable in society. The notion of skateboarders being criminals has dwindled. The X-Games continues to become more and more popular with skateboarding at the helm.

In Germany, street skateboarding is the most popular discipline at contests just like in the USA. The European and German skate scene is independent, has its own industry, pros, and a national contest series. This is evidence of how big the role of skateboarding is in our society.

One of the big factors today that makes skateboarding so huge is the fact that pros make real money. Wining events can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kids are realising that you don’t have to become a doctor or lawyer to make a buck. Skateboarding has become a job for a lot of people. Because of the increasing networking inside the skate scene, skateboarding will grow and bring more innovations in the future.

Skateboarding has also played a big role in fashion earning its place among the masses. Companies like Diamond Supply Co, Hurley, Vans, and RVCA all making millions off the skateboarding lifestyle.

Skateboarding is no longer merely the realm of misfits and guys who wear needlessly oversized pants. Skateboarding has now permeated society, leaving a surprisingly large footprint on global pop culture. Some of the popular culture we can find skateboarding include;

Music

As skateboarding became more accepted by the mainstream, the music became more inclusive, expanding to the commercially friendly sounds of bands such as Blink 182 and The Offspring throughout the 80s and 90s. With the line between skate punk and pop now thoroughly blurred, the sounds of Good Charlotte and even Avril Lavigne ensure skateboarding’s musical influence continues whether the originators of skate punk would enjoy this comparison or not.

Fashion

From the functionality-based early days of tight shorts, T-shirts and tube socks in the late 70s and 80s, skate fashion has evolved into a massively commercial enterprise. As skateboarding’s popularity increased and skateboard videos became more widely viewed, opportunities arose for companies to appeal to the lucrative youth market, leading to clothing sponsorships for well-known skaters and events such as the Vans sponsored Warped Tour music festival.

Movies And TV Shows

From Bart Simpson and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to serious documentaries such as Dogtown and Z-Boys (and its biopic counterpart, Lords of Dogtown), skateboarding has long been a common subject in movies and TV. The infamous Jackass crew also largely emerged from the skateboarding scene, with their anti-authoritarian sentiment and ‘anything goes’ attitude proving appealing to mainstream audiences regardless of their interest level in skateboarding.

Games

Skateboarding’s usage in videogames similarly extends far beyond an appeal to skateboarding enthusiasts. Tony Hawk’s game series remains one of the most successful in videogame history despite the majority of players unlikely to have ever picked up an actual board.

One benefit of skateboarding is that it is a very individual activity. There is no right or wrong way to skate. Skateboarding still hasn’t stopped evolving, and skaters are coming up with new tricks all the time.

Skateboards are also continuing to evolve as companies try to make them lighter and stronger or improve their performance. If this is what happened in the last 60 years I can’t help but wonder what skateboarding has in store in the next 60 years.